Data collection in Debark

By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

For the past two days we have been in Debark, a town about 100 kilometers north of Gondar. Debark was our second data collection site for our rabies research project.

It is a common resting place for tourists who wish to visit the Simien Mountains. On our two-hour drive up to the city, we passed stunning scenery. The countryside is full of lush, rolling hills and looks like a patchwork quilt of rich coffee brown fields and vibrant green countryside.

We passed many farmers out plowing their fields with oxen and an old-fashioned plow. It was idyllic, and I felt like I had stepped back into a different time.  It was hard to go five minutes without seeing a shepherd out with his flock of goats or sheep, and there were always cows, goats, and sheep grazing in the distance. Our van had to stop or slow down a few times as wandering goats, sheep, and cattle crossed the road.

The people of Debark were very friendly and accommodating. For the project, my team was in charge of urban adults and children. It was truly a privilege to be able to walk their streets and be invited into their houses, especially since they knew nothing about me. Every house we went to, I was offered a chair or a place to sit, and a few times, they roasted a snack for me over their fire for me to eat. The hospitality here was truly amazing.

Our last day of data collection, we went up to a small neighborhood on a hill. Immediately we were surrounded by a huge group of children, all probably under the age of 10. They were all extremely friendly and asked me my name.

As my Ethiopian team members told them about the study and asked if they would like to participate, one of the little girls grabbed my hand.

All the children were eager to participate in the study. As we followed them back to their houses, my other hand was grabbed by a little boy, and I was led off down the dirt road to their homes.  Walking from one house to another, my hand was never empty. At one point, two of the children had a little disagreement about who actually got to hold my hand.

When we finished our data collection and were saying goodbye, all the children who had followed us around came over to me and shook my hand, and we touched shoulders. In Ethiopia, when you greet someone you shake hands and touch shoulders with the person. There must have been six or seven kids in line to say goodbye to me. It was truly a heartwarming and memorable experience that I will carry with me forever.

Whether Ethiopia or U.S., independence is a global value

imageBy Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

Traditions and holidays are important wherever you are and know no boundaries. This holds true for the four of us students working here in Ethiopia. As July 4, neared we thought of the best ways to celebrate this holiday while abroad. Through Ethiopia was doesn’t officially have an Independence Day as we do in the states, they celebrate Adwa Victory in February. This is in memory of the Battle of Adwa, when they freed Ethiopia from Italian colonization.

We were in luck when we found our local convenient store ( a very small one room store with items on all the walls and one very small row of cookies, cereals and juices) at the end of our street had fireworks and sparklers. We purchased a few to celebrate and help make it feel like home.

We decided to try to find something very American for dinner and since our luck with cheeseburgers wasn’t going to well, and hot dogs aren’t common, we all agreed pizza was our best option. We celebrated our Fourth of July as best we could with pizza and fireworks. It wasn’t a traditional picnic cookout with the family and ending the evening with fireworks however it came pretty close.

We have all become close here like family, and our pizza and sparklers were just as much fun as a picnic and fireworks. All in all it was a successful Fourth of July celebration here halfway across the world.


Microbiology lab at the University of Gondar hospital

From left to right:  Ohio State's Baye Molla, DVM, PhD, and Tim Landers, RN, PhD along with University of Gondar's Wubet Birhan, head, School of Biomedical and Laboratory Sciences, Kassie Molla, head, microbiology laboratory, and Tigist Feleke, lab technologist

From left to right: Ohio State’s Baye Molla and Tim Landers along with University of Gondar’s Wubet Birhan, head, School of Biomedical and Laboratory Sciences; Kassie Molla, head, microbiology laboratory; and Tigist Feleke, lab technologist

By Bayleyegn Molla, DVM, PhD
College of Veterinary Medicine, The Ohio State University

This week, I had a chance to tour the microbiology at the University of Gondar Hospital.

The lab processes hundreds of samples from patients every month. Patient samples are accepted, labeled and sent on to the microbiology lab where they are placed in different agars and broths to check for the growth of bacteria in patient samples.

I was surprised when the staff showed us a large book where the date, source, and patient information are recorded. This can be a time consuming task and makes it difficult to transmit results efficiently to clinicians. Papers can be torn, lost, or burned.

It is a less than ideal system.

When I asked to see the computer, they happily showed us the new electronic system to track individual results including results, name of the organism recovered, and information about antibiotic resistance for each organism. Having this system allows more rapid feedback to clinic staff and can be used to research problems in microbiology.

I was relieved and encouraged that they were using this technology.

This made me reflect on how I still rely on older systems in my old work.  They are comfortable for us to use. In order to really harness technology to address important health and food safety problems, I also need to help develop effective technology, trust it to perform, and use it to its maximum.

That is what I learned in the microbiology lab.

Ohio State in Ethiopia: Now the students’ work begins

By Ally Sterman
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

With the start of the both the new week and new month our Ethiopia summer project really begins. Though we four students from various colleges at Ohio State arrived near the end of last week in Ethiopia, we did not begin our field work until July 1.

Our project takes us into both the rural and urban communities interviewing local adults, children, policy makers, community and faith leaders, as well as health care workers about rabies and dogs. We are set to travel around to three different areas before a workshop is held in Addis Ababa to discuss rabies further in mid-July.

However we do not go out alone. Each Ohio State student has two wonderful Ethiopian University of Gondar partners. These individuals are primarily faculty and staff at the university from a variety of fields/disciplines. They not only serve as interpreters for our project but tour guides of the city and historians for Ethiopia’s culture/traditions/history. They are quickly becoming lifelong and treasured friends. I know I can speak for all of the students about how grateful and appreciative we are for their help and how much fun/enjoyable they are making this experience.

The picture below was taken before one of the interviews conducted by my group. My group’s main focus is community leaders which include teachers, faith leaders, elders, and other various leaders in both the rural and urban settings. This picture was taken of one of the churches we travelled to in the city of Gondar where we had the opportunity to meet and talk to the priests about rabies and the dog population here in the city.


Learning another culture through its food

By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

I happen to love bread and carbs in general.  At home, I love making homemade bread and even have my own bread machine in my apartment, so I was curious about the bread of Ethiopia. The staple bread, although it is not really like our bread, is injera. It is most comparable to flatbread or possibly a tortilla or crepe. The main differences are its spongy texture and that it is made from a completely different type of grain called teff.

Teff is a cereal grass and is only found in Ethiopia. It is ground into flour and then is mixed with water and baked to make injera.

Injera is included in almost every native dish in Ethiopia, and it is often used to hold the dish, acting as both a plate and utensils.  Ideally, you use the injera to wrap up whatever you ordered inside like a seasoned meat and then eat both the injera and meat. (If you are like me, you end up using a fork at some point, because without a fork, it is quite a messy undertaking.)

Not only is injera used as an edible plate and utensil, it is also often the main course. For instance, the other night, our partners asked if I wanted to try Firfir. To me this dish looked like some sort of meat with mashed up beans served on top of injera. Well, I was having a hard time understanding the ingredients they were listing off, and they kept shaking their heads when I repeated back what I thought were the ingredients until I realized that part of the dish which I thought was meat was not meat but shredded up injera served in a sauce with seasoning.

So there you have it — injera — the staple bread of Ethiopia. By the way, for those who are gluten intolerant, teff is gluten free.

How to Make Injera:

After our delicious meal

After our delicious meal

Learning Amharic in Ethiopia: It’s for veterinarians, too


By Karissa Magnuson
Student, Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

I have always loved learning foreign languages, and when I was in junior high, I considered the possibility of majoring in linguistics in college. However, my passion for animals won out, and instead of being a linguist, I am half way to being a veterinarian. It is nice to know, though, that despite my career choice, I can still enjoy learning foreign languages and incorporate my career and other interests together.

Today at lunch, fellow Ohio State student Korbin Smith and I invited one of our Ethiopian team members, Atnaf, out to lunch at our hotel. I decided to ask her about how their sentence structure works here.

Side Note:  I took German in high school and college and knew that in German if you wanted to say ‘ I would like to play football’ it would be like saying in English ‘ I would like football to play’. Well I was curious how it worked here because I was hoping to actually form a sentence by the end of the six weeks. We will see if this actually happens or not.

Anyways, Atnaf pulled out a piece of paper and started writing down their alphabet. The alphabet in Amharic is like little drawings. Each drawing represents a different sound. For instance there is a character that looks like a ‘u’ and is pronounced ‘ha’. From my understanding the ‘u’ for ‘ha’ is the root for other variations with similar sound/characters… i.e. ‘hu, hi, ha, h, ho’ which will look like the ‘u’ but may have an extra tail, circle, or squiggly attached somewhere on the ‘u’. They then have other root shapes with variations for a total of over 30 characters.

There are a few characters in Ethiopia with sounds that I could not make. For example, in Amharic they have a character that sounds like ‘Kkah’ but with an extra, barely imperceptible sound when pronounced. Korbin and I kept trying to say it, and she just kept laughing and shaking her head and then pronouncing it again. It requires some muscle in your throat or something that we as English speakers never have to use.

Anyway, it was a very interesting lesson, and Atnaf really enjoyed teaching us and appreciated our efforts to learn their language. Perhaps, by the end of the summer I will be able to write a sentence in Amharic.

O – H – I – O ! Ohio State students arrive in Ethiopia


We were very excited to welcome four Ohio State students to Gondar yesterday.  They are beginning their work on the needs assessment for a rabies prevention/elimination project.

Last night over a traditional Ethiopian dinner, the group met with University of Gondar Veterinary Medicine Dean Dr. Mersha Chanie, Chair of Sociology Molalign Belay, guest Dr. Judd Walson from the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health, and Ohio Staters including Veterinary Medicine Professor Baye Molla, College of Nursing Vice Dean Usha Menon and other College of Nursing faculty.

One thing that struck me was the diversity and intensity of the group.  These four students represent the breadth of programs at Ohio State and how interdisciplinary work can bring creative and innovative perspectives to important problems.

Third-year veterinary student Karissa Magnuson is interested in wildlife veterinary medicine.  Ally Sterman is a third-year veterinary student with an interest in shelter medicine and public health approaches to veterinary problems.  Korbin Smith, BS ’13, was inspired by Dr. Randall Harris in the College of Public Health to consider opportunities in public health.  Heading up the team is graduate student Laura Binkley, who is working on a Master’s degrees in public health and wildlife ecology.

Absolutely striking was the passion that each student brought to their particular interests and the lively discussion about where interests overlap and intersect.  This is the kind of collaboration that we can build only at a major academic institution like Ohio State.

Go Bucks!

Ohio State and Ethiopia: Building Collaborations

Here I am reviewing some class materials with students in the “Food Safety and Food Borne Diseases” course, as part of the Summer One Health Institute.

Here I am reviewing some class materials with students in the “Food Safety and Food Borne Diseases” course, as part of the Summer One Health Institute.

by Bayleyegn Molla, DVM, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor and International Programs Coordinator
Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine

Our hope is to establish ongoing collaborative relationships–not just during the One Health Summer Institute, but well in to the future.  We hope to be able to build a mutually beneficial partnership between faculty and students at Ohio State and University of Gondar, which will help leverage expertise and open opportunities for all.

For participants from Ethiopia, this experience can bring the world-class knowledge and expertise of Ohio State to address important public health problems, though training and ongoing working relationships.  Partners at the University of Gondar bring a wealth of knowledge about local priorities and infrastructure.

Research and practice priorities are well organized in thematic areas with an emphasis on team-based research.

For faculty from Ohio State, this partnership offers the opportunity to explore and help develop solutions to tropical diseases, wildlife and environmental issues, and to apply new approaches in a different culture and region.  This opportunity helps expand the capabilities for students trained through the University of Gondar and faculty to use this knowledge to address important issues in Ohio, in our country, and throughout the world.

It is very rewarding to see this partnership in action in the One Health Summer Institute.  Students and faculty from nursing, public health, veterinary medicine, basic sciences, and human medicine have been discussing important problems such:

  • Food-borne illnesses
  • MRSA prevention
  • Cervical cancer
  • Zoonotic diseases

More importantly, these workshops explore potential ways to work together in the coming months and years.

The “One Health” framework is an excellent foundation on which to build this partnership, because it relies on contributions from a range of scientific experts and the active engagement of students in workshop sessions.

Being from Ethiopia originally, and now as a faculty member at Ohio State, it is tremendously rewarding to see the engagement of both universities in an effort to improve health.

Making Animal Inquiries in Addis Ababa

I took this picture outside of the Jupiter Hotel in Addis Ababa. This is kind of how I felt trying to navigate  a busy street with an unfamiliar language.

I took this picture of a stray dog outside the Jupiter Hotel in Addis Ababa. This is kind of how I felt trying to navigate a busy street with unfamiliar language and surroundings.

By Tim Landers
Ohio State College of Nursing

One of the first people we met when we arrived in Addis Ababa was Daniel, our driver who took us around some of the sights.

Traffic is very bad, with pedestrians, loaded mules, stray animals and vehicles trying to share the same road.

Most of the dogs we saw were roaming the street, but as we wove through traffic, I asked Daniel if he had a dog.  He was happy to show us photos of “Jack.” We know that dogs are important parts of many peoples’ families, and this was true for Daniel as well.

We asked more about Jack – where did he find him, when did he go to the doctor, and what type of dog he was.  Expecting that he would tell us about Jack’s pedigree, Daniel seemed very puzzled by the this question.  “He’s a small dog, a nice dog.”

Daniel was concerned because Jack had some sort of infestation, and he did not know how to treat it.  Unfortunately, we had two nurses in the car and no veterinarians.  We did stop at a local pharmacy to see what treatments they might have.

While we were able to buy fairly high-end human antibiotics, but they did not carry veterinary medications.

During our tour of Gondar, we encountered this donkey, which in Ethiopia are seen as work animals.

I asked one of the veterinarians with our group about an ulcer on the back of this donkey.  He actually pointed me to a paper he had written about these “pack ulcers” –erosions caused by loading of the animal for transport of goods to the market.  They are generally non-infectious, but they look uncomfortable!